Last week Carleton University announced that Wes Nicol made a $10 million donation to their school of business. it was a festive moment, the school was rejoicing at the infusion of much need cash and publicity, and Mr Nicol was glowing from pride at what he was able to give to the community. [$10M-donation-for-new-business-school-building/1] In the various interviews he gave, he talked about the benefits of his university education, and how happy he was to give back, so that others may benefit from a good education. This is wonderful, and that kind of massive gift is all too infrequent.

But I want to pull back for a moment of reflection here. Mr Nicol was giving $10m to a business program, but his own success was not as a result of a business degree. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton. Why then did he invest in a business degree? Why not give the chronically underfunded Faculty of Arts the much needed money? He cannot argue that this program provided material benefit, as his success demonstrates.

The media as of late have been very quick to denigrate arts degrees. Why don’t you get a “useful” degree, one that will gain you a high-paying job or career? Become a scientist, or an engineer, or a lawyer. These jobs pay well and are “legitimate” and “respectable.” What can an arts degree get you?

Apparently a company that enables you to make $10M donations to universities.

As Mr Nicol demonstrates, even with a degree in the arts, you can pursue a career in business, away from the actually topic you studied at school. The flexibility of an arts education can parlay the acquired skills into unrelated activities, to create a career to which you are best suited, interested in and allow you to succeed.

Why aren’t the successful arts graduates giving back to the programs that gave them the skills to success in their chose career paths?